On December 16, the Cathedral of the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona turned on the illumination of the two newly built towers of the Evangelists Luke and Mark for the first time, thus marking the completion of their construction.
“The Sagrada Família is currently focusing its efforts on finishing the core of the central towers”, says Esteve Camps, Delegate President of the Construction Board of the Expiatory Temple of the Sagrada Família, and adds that “at the end of 2023 we expect to have completed the towers of Mateu and Joan, and thus inaugurate the whole set of the Evangelists”.
As part of the set of central towers, the four towers of the Evangelists surround the tower of Jesus and are 135 meters high, making them the third tallest in the temple. To identify which evangelist each tower represents, as projected by Gaudí, these end with the corresponding figure of the tetramorph, with the book and the wings, figures that Christian iconography, art and architecture have used for centuries to represent the evangelists. In this sense, today the sculpture of the bull, which culminates the tower of the Evangelist Luke, and the sculpture of the lion, which represents the Evangelist Mark, was illuminated for the first time. The towers will be lit up every evening from December 17 to January 8, from 6 to 10 p.m.. During these Christmas dates, the sculptural groups of the Nativity, the Adoration of the Shepherds and the Adoration of the Eastern Kings on the Nativity facade will also be illuminated.
The symbology of the tetramorph
The four figures of the tetramorph that culminate in the towers of the Evangelists will form a halo around the tower of Jesus Christ and the cross. The word tetramorph refers to an iconographic representation of a set made up of four elements. In this sense, according to Christian iconography, the tetramorph figures represent the four Evangelists, narrators of the life of Jesus: a man or angel in Matthew’s case, a lion in Mark’s, an ox in Luke’s and a eagle in John’s.
The Evangelista Lluc tower, completed this year, is topped with the bull sculpture. According to tradition, Luke was a doctor and was converted to Christianity by Saint Paul. He gave himself to his service and followed him everywhere. Because of his helpful and kind nature, he was given the symbol of the ox, a humble, handy and hard-working animal.
On the other hand, the tower of the Evangelist Mark is topped with the figure of the lion. In the Gospel, Mark presents Jesus as an adult at the solemn moment of baptism and how he will then live in the desert among the wild animals. It is for this reason that it is assigned the symbol of the lion. Tradition has always considered this animal as a representation of strength, courage and royalty.
The architectural challenge
Following Gaudí’s instructions, the towers of the Evangelists are formed by eight faces in the form of a paraboloid up to the base of the terminal. The terminals of the towers of the Evangelists are formed by the shaft, the icosahedron, the book, the wings and the figure of the tetramorph. The shaft contains the praises “Amen” and “Hallelujah” inscribed in hexagonal stone shields. Just above is the icosahedron, polyhedron that contains the spotlights that will illuminate the cross of Jesus Christ from the tower of each Evangelist. The icosahedron contains a sphere and is ornamented with gold-colored trencadís by Or Orsonifor spherical caps and ochre, yellow and salmon in warm tones for the faces of the piece. From this element arises the figure of the tetramorph at the top of each tower of the Evangelists.
The figures of the tetramorph, the work of the sculptor Xavier Medina Campeny, are made of Thassos marble, a white marble used since ancient times for Greek and Roman sculptures. The book of the Gospel that accompanies each sculpture is made of the same material and incorporates the corresponding abbreviations of each evangelist made of trencadís in different shades of red. The tetramorph also has upper wings, a common element for the four towers of the Evangelists that culminates at a height of 135 meters and can be visibly distinguished from a distance. As explained by Jordi Faulí, architect director of the Sagrada Família, “the wings are generated with the last regular geometry used by Gaudí, a large elliptic hyperboloid”. This element, 9 meters high, has been designed in concrete, with steel reinforcement of great geometric complexity and of a special quality and resistance.
The Sagrada Família is centered on the completion of the six central towers. The Construction Board of the Sagrada Família is working with the intention of completing the towers of the Evangelists John and Matthew at the end of 2023 and thus inaugurating the set of the four Evangelists at the end of next year. In the same way, the forecast is to complete the tower of Jesus Christ in 2026, coinciding with the centenary of the death of Antoni Gaudí and the celebration of Barcelona as the World Capital of Architecture (UIA-UNESCO). The tower of Jesus will be the central tower of the temple and the highest, which will reach 172.50 meters, in order not to exceed the height of the mountain of Montjuïc.